Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein
Emotional Intelligence is being smarter with feelings. It involves understanding your emotional responses and making more functional decisions. A primary competence in developing EI is being able to recognise patterns in your responses and behaviour. These responses are your programmed responses (or reactions) to different situations. They are either instinctual or learned.
Recognizing patterns means you are able to acknowledge frequently recurring reactions and behaviours. The human brain is designed to form and follow neural pathways, this means every function your brain can perform is a series of connections between neurons, just like lines of code in software. These patterns allow you to perform actions without conscious thought and makes you more efficient. Examples are speaking, walking, writing, breathing etc.
This is beneficial until you are in a unique situation, with emotions are flaring, and you are unable to make the required careful, conscious thought required to handle it. You then react based on ingrained patterns stored in the brain, this happens in fractions of a second. That’s because those reactions that are formed are stored in the more primal part of the brain, the limbic brain, which is optimized for rapid access.
This reaction is unconscious. When you allow yourself to constantly react unconsciously, you hardly have time to give the appropriate responses. In extreme cases, these learned patterns can lead to catastrophic consequences.
An example is, when a person goes to a new environment, there can be feelings of inadequacy and anxiety and such an individual can “withdraw into a shell”. This can be a form of self-defence, to mask their insecurity. Another is, when a child hears his favourite cartoon being aired, he’s excited and immediately abandons all activity to watch it.
How to Recognize Your Patterns
- Ask questions: Research into self-science by Dr Karen recommends that you ask yourself questions during emotionally charged situations to help uncover the feelings and emotions we have at that time. Combining that with Applying Consequential Thinking, makes the individual measure their emotions, responses and desired outcomes with one another. This way, we become intentional and less prone to emotional hijacking.
2. Keep Journals: naming your emotions and recording them, brings them to consciousness. This also serves as a reminder for the future.
3. Ask people around you: friends, families and colleagues can offer invaluable feedback on your behaviour. It can help to approach any of them that you trust and ask questions on your behaviour.
Teach Yourself New Patterns
1. Realistic Optimism: people always have more options than they’d like to admit. In the face of distressing situations, there is a tendency to stop thinking and just react, by fleeing, fighting or freezing. Engaging optimism allows you to appraise the situation and still seek a different solution. A solution that is more thought out and has potential to give better results.
2. Make a Problem-Solution chart: make a list of the biggest problems and note how horrible they are. Next, write a solution that would work for someone with more skills, resources and experience. A solution that could potentially work, even if you can’t implement it yet. Next, ask: Are these statements realistic? Then, choose one of the solutions and ask: What do I need to learn or improve so I can implement this? Are there people, books or websites that could help me build those strengths?
3. Apply Consequential Thinking: this means having the end in mind. What do I want to happen at the end of these actions? Can I bear them? Once these questions have been answered, then such an individual can be more purposeful in the handling of their emotional patterns.
4. Get Help: sometimes learned patterns are so deeply ingrained that you might need the help of a qualified professional to assist in applying these techniques and get effective results. You can contact Minds and Emotions Center via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone call +234(0)9064843873 to schedule a session.